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Robert Kirkman's latest Walking Dead, Vol 23 "Whispers Into Screams" was pretty good. Carl is settling in on Maggie's side of town when they capture a young girl who is part of the group of people who call themselves the Whisperers: they walk among the dead in zombie skins. Carl gets to know Lydia while he's cooling his heels in their makeshift jail, locked up for going a bit overboard and almost beating two guys to death who were hurting Sophia. He convinces Maggie to let Lydia out, saying she's harmless, and Maggie does. Carl spends the day with Lydia, and like a typical teenage boy assumes he's in love with her. Lydia's mom comes to get her and Maggie trades Lydia for the prisoners the Whisperers have, much to Carl's chagrin. When Sophia goes looking for him later, he's vanished, gone off to rescue Lydia.

Red Notice

I was a bit worried that this book might be too difficult, since it deals with areas of finance and politics that are admittedly way over my head, but Browder did an excellent job of keeping it understandable for the lay person who has never dealt in the heady world of high finance. In the early 90s, Browder took advantage of the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and moved to Russia to cash in on their move toward capitalism. Browder admits he thought he was immune from Russia's rampant corruption since he was a foreigner, but when he tangles with the wrong powerful oligarch his job and his life is in danger. Luckily he is able to escape but unfortunately his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, wasn't so lucky. Sergei was imprisoned, tortured, beaten, and killed, and the powers that be brazenly covered it up with lies, going so far as to blame Browder for his friend's murder. Since Sergei's death, he's fought for justice for Sergei. It was a powerful and moving story, well told.

I enjoyed the heck out of S.K.'s latest, "Finders Keepers", a sequel to "Mr. Mercedes". Back in the 1970s, Morris Bellamy is entranced with an author named John Rothstein, who stopped publishing abruptly after having his signature character, Jimmy Gold, sell out. Morris goes to Mr. Rothstein's house, robs him off his unpublished manuscripts and some cash, and kills him. He takes the notebooks back home, intending to read them and someday sell them and make a fortune, but before he can he's arrested for an unrelated crime and sentenced to prison. Many, many years in prison. He buried a trunk with the money and the notebooks before he goes away and intends to dig it up once he finally gets out.
In the intervening years, a boy named Pete happens across the trunk. The money is a lifesaver: his dad was seriously injured when some idiot in a Mercedes mowed down an innocent group of people waiting in line at a job fair, and his family is in danger of falling apart. Pete's a smart boy, and he reads the manuscripts and realizes what a treasure he has.
Meanwhile, Morris has gotten out of prison and goes back to his hometown to retrieve what's rightfully his, only to discover someone's beaten him to it. It was tense and suspenseful and great, I really enjoyed it.

I also really liked Diane Chamberlain's "Silent Sister". Riley has grown up believing her seventeen year old sister, Lisa, committed suicide back when Riley was just a baby. When her father unexpectedly dies, Riley returns home to pack up his things and take care of his estate, and starts discovering the truth: Lisa was going on trial for killing her violin teacher when she disappeared, her body never to be found. The more Riley pokes around, the more it seems like Lisa didn't really kill herself. I saw the big surprise twist coming a mile away, which always delights me because it happens so rarely, but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of getting to it any.

I love Jenny Han. I wish she would have been around when I was a teen, I would have *adored* this book. As it is, even as an adult of advanced age, I still enjoyed it. The sequel to "To All the Boys I've Loved Before" finds Lara Jean dating her dream crush, Peter. Peter still seems pretty caught up on his ex, Genevieve, though, Lara Jean keeps catching them embracing and texting. Peter swears it's all innocent, and Lara Jean wants desperately to believe him. Meanwhile, her last letter that Kitty sent off to John finally gets delivered and John writes back. They start writing to each other and John comes back for a visit, surprised that Lara Jean and Peter are dating. Lara Jean and John start growing closer as they spend more time with each other, since they have a lot in common and Peter seems so distant with Genevieve. It was such a great, touching, honest portrayal of teenage love, how absolutely final and tragic it all seems sometimes. She has a great way with characters, they seem quite real.

And finishing off this round of excellent books: pure trashy fluff. Enjoyable, but not nearly as good as the others. "Secret Brother" is the story of how Cory Dollanganger came to live with the Arnold family: young Willie was struck and killed by a drunk driver, and while in the ER Willie's grandfather, William Arnold, discovers a young boy of similar age as his dead grandson has been dropped off, showing signs of arsenic poisoning. No one knows who the boy belongs to, detectives are trying to hunt down the boy's family with no luck. Rich and powerful, William brings the young boy home and installs him in his dead grandson's room, much to the chagrin of his granddaughter and Willie's older sister, Clara Sue. At first Clara Sue tries to ignore the boy, but that just puts her on her granddad's shitlist. So then she tries to win his trust so she can figure out who he is and send him home. There were quite a few things that bothered me about this book, for instance, even though it's supposed to take place in the 1960s ("Flowers in the Attic" was vague on dates), at one point one of the characters fist bumps the other. Um, huh? At least they weren't all running around on cell phones...

I love Jen Lancaster. I raced through her latest memoir, "I Regret Nothing", and I don't regret it :) It was great, laugh out loud funny in most parts. Jen has written a bucket list, things she wants to do so she'll have no regrets when she goes, like learning to ride a bicycle again and traveling to Italy. She does go off a bit on how social media is driving her crazy, how the critics and jerks are starting to get to her confidence (and I totally agree with her about how awful it all is), which is distressing to me. I always imagined her as just this bad ass who says "so what?" when people diss her, but of course she's not that hard-shelled. Few normal humans are. Don't listen to the haters, Jen. Seriously. You're awesome. Hilarious and snarky and you do a lot of things I do, too. And because of your ability to laugh at yourself, I'm getting better about it as well. Which is a good thing, I've always taken myself way too seriously.

I wasn't terribly impressed with Jodi Picoult's latest, "Leaving Time", even though it wasn't as controversial as most of her other books have been. Jenna is thirteen and is searching for her mom, a well known elephant behavior researcher, who disappeared ten years earlier. Her father is in a mental hospital, so he's no help, and her grandmother doesn't seem to care, so it's up to Jenna. She contacts a disgraced psychic named Serenity, and tracks down one of the detectives who originally investigated the case, Virgil. Be careful what you wish for, Jenna. The ending was very "Sixth Sense" and left me going "huh?". Oh well. I learned a lot about elephants, at any rate.

This one was a no-brainer: I love Westerns, and I love Mickey Spillane. Together? Yes please! I thoroughly enjoyed it, even if it was predictable: a bad sheriff has taken over the town of Trinidad, New Mexico. Sheriff Gauge has bullied and bought out most of the small ranchers in the area, with old blind Cullen one of the lone holdouts. Gauge is hankering after Cullen's daughter, Willa, too. Cullen sends off a telegram to a friend of his, asking him to send help in the form of a hired killer to off Gauge. He wants Caleb York, but is told that York was killed in a gunfight. The next day a stranger rides into town, refusing to give anyone his name. He is kicking ass, though, and everyone assumes it's the killer Cullen's friend sent. Like I said, predictable, but very fun nonetheless.

Murry Falkner was Bill's little brother (unlike big brother, he never put the "u" in his last name). It was a sweet memoir of a lifestyle no one lives any longer: boys playing barefoot in the dirt in the summer, watching airplanes and trains with fascination, building machines out in the shed, a simpler time. After seeing Bill's home in Oxford last year, it was lovely to read Murry's description of it. All the brothers shared a love of flying and Murry had a pretty interesting life of his own: he worked for the FBI, fought in WWI and WWII, met his wife in Africa, flew planes all over, in Alaska, in California. He sounds like he was a fun individual. I never lived in those times (he died before I was born), but reading things like this makes me dearly wish I had.

I didn't mean to reread the whole third book by Tucker Max, "Hilarity Ensues", I just flipped it open and thought "Oh, I'll read a bit to cheer myself up" and ended up laughing myself silly through the whole thing. Even though I've read it all before, I still have a good laugh every time I reread it. Oh, Tucker. I'm glad, for the sake of humanity that you've grown up and mended your ways, but I am sorry there will be no tales of wild debauchery. He does have such a gift for storytelling.

Could there be any two books more different? "Got Milked?" by Alissa Hamilton was mostly preaching to the choir: I've been vegan for over three years now, and honestly think dairy is worse than meat (not that I don't occasionally cheat and have pizza, I didn't say I was a *good* vegan). It's astounding how much misinformation is out there about how good dairy is for you, despite all the evidence to the contrary. The dairy farmers of America are a wealthy and powerful group of people. It's a damn shame.

Friday's Child

I adore Georgette Heyer. This one was so much fun. Young Viscount Sheringham fancies himself in love with the great Beauty (always a capital B), Isabella, but when he proposes, she rebuffs him. Sheringham, otherwise known as "Sherry", is in debt from gambling and won't get control of his fortune until he turns twenty-five or marries. Not willing to wait, he decides to elope with a young orphan girl who is related to his neighbors. Little Hero is young, barely out of the schoolroom, but a sweet girl and has had a crush on Sherry her whole life. Faced with the prospect of being sent off to be a governess, eloping with Sherry seems like a fairy tale. Her family is glad to be shut of her, although Sherry's mother is horrified when she finds out and goes around claiming Hero is ruining Sherry's life.
Married life doesn't change the young Viscount at all, he continues to carry on as if he were still a wild bachelor, which is fine with Hero. He can do no wrong in her eyes. But she continually gets into scrapes because she's not sure how to behave, and it's very vexing for Sherry to have to keep bailing her out. Finally, she commits a terrible breach of protocol and Sherry threatens to send her to the country to live with his mother for awhile so she can learn how to be a proper lady. Hero is horrified at the idea of being separated from him and living with a woman she knows hates her, so she runs off to some of Sherry's close friends, begging for help.
Sherry's friends are all rather fond of "Kitten", and one of them arranges for her to go stay with his grandmother in Bath. They all decide to keep this from Sherry, as a way of teaching him a lesson. They think he really does love his wife more than he realizes, he just needs to know it. And of course as soon as Sherry realizes Hero has run off he is distraught and tears apart London, looking for her. It had the most lovely happy ending and was quite sweet.

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